Saturday, November 04, 2006

Movies opening this week

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, dir. Larry Charles)
Let's get this out of the way right now: I did not like this movie. Thus I stand in opposition, apparently, to the entire critical establishment as well as nearly all of the American movie-going public. And that's an okay place for me to be, I think, but I acknowledge that this movie is almost universally praised and a lot of people are going to like it. And that doesn't necessarily bother me - this is not one of those movies whose popularity either with critics or audiences makes me despair for the state of cinema. It has ambition and intelligence, and that's always a good thing. But I didn't find it funny in the least - to me, it's a one-joke premise, and once you get what Borat's about, he just repeats the same bits over and over again. The film is just a collection of skits that quickly become repetitive, and certainly doesn't hold together as a cohesive narrative. And Borat himself is actually a poorly realized character, changing fundamentally to suit whatever purpose he serves in each different bit.

Not that many of these things would matter if the jokes were funny, but other than a few chuckles, I didn't laugh at any of the bits that had the preview audience I saw it with roaring. I've never been a fan of the "embarrass people" brand of humor, which is why I can't stand hidden camera shows or practical jokes or the field reports on The Daily Show. Essentially tricking people into acting like idiots is not funny to me. The worst thing, though, is all this talk of how Borat is some clever social satire that exposes the dark underbelly of American bigotry. While the movie does satirize the idea of bigotry, very few of Borat's victims actually express what could be called genuinely hateful ideas. The rodeo official who wants to jail homosexuals and the frat boys who hate women come the closest, but even then you can hardly call what transpires insightful or even satirical. Drunken frat boys act misogynistic? What a shocker. Some old white dude in Texas hates gay people? I am amazed. I mean, really. Even if you think it's hilarious, one thing this movie is not is sophisticated political commentary. Wide release

Flushed Away (Voices of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Bill Nighy, dir. David Bowers & Sam Fell)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I hope that this movie makes a ton of money so that Aardman can spend how ever much time it takes to painstakingly create one of their stop-motion films and do another Wallace and Gromit movie or something. This is actually a fun and funny film that's good for kids and adults, but it's a little too mainstream and predictable in comparison to what the company has done before. Even so, any quality animated film that can bring success to a group of talented people like the Aardman gang gets my stamp of approval. Wide release


Anonymous said...

i have not yet seen the borat movie, but i have seen (i think) every skit from da ali g show that features borat. i'm guessing you have not seen any of them, judging by what you said about "exposing the dark underbelly of american bigotry." on the show, at least, this is exactly what cohen does, at least most of the time. not that this negates anything you've said about the movie, but you ought to know (assuming you haven't seen the show and simply disagree).

for example, borat interviews this one extreme hunter and the man actually states that he wishes it were legal to shoot jews; elsewhere, two men fondly ponder the benefits of bringing back slavery. there are many examples of these extremists on the show, and cohen does a great job of exposing them. it's never sophisticated, of course, but i would protest that it is relevant and enlightening at the least. i guess i'll have to check out the movie to see the difference, though.

Josh said...

I don't know, I just feel like the revelation that there are bigoted people in exactly where you'd expected them to be who can be coaxed into expressing their prejudices when someone actively encourages them (and who knows how much encouraging it takes or how many non-bigoted people they film before they get the good material) is not particularly revelatory or enlightening. Maybe I have a dimmer view of humanity than some people, but this kind of thing just doesn't surprise me.